aka the chapter in which Acacia is annoyed by a cute guy.

Acacia gritted her teeth together, before slashing her sword forward with a loud, irritated scream. The blade ripped through the dummy in front of her, sending the upper half to the other side of the room.

The seventeen-year-old was panting, her eyebrows knitted into a stern frown. ‘Clean up your act,’ she mumbled, mimicking her father’s words with an aggressive slur to her words. ‘Not able to protect them.’

She delivered another strike to the dummy, this time, slashing of one of its arms. ‘Not able to defeat your brother.’

She let out an agonizing scream, but just before she could slash open what was left of the dummy, she heard a loud cough. ‘Um, sorry, am I interrupting something?’

The girl rapidly turned around, and was met by a young man looking not much older than her. He tried to smile at her, running one hand through his curly, red locks as he shifted his blue gaze to the training dummy behind her.

‘What did that thing ever do to you?’ he joked, walking closer as Acacia straightened her back. ‘That’s none of your concern,’ she hissed at him, and she tightened her grip on her sword with an irritated glare in her eyes.

The young man chuckled, and stuck out his hand invitingly. ‘I’m Avondir,’ he said, smiling brightly. ‘But everyone calls me Avon, so you can too.’

Acacia didn’t shake his hand; instead, she pulled up an eyebrow in annoyance. Avondir chuckled. ‘C’mon, I don’t bite.’

The girl rolled her eyes, before hesitantly shaking his hand. Avondir’s lips were pulled in a slight smile as he gave her hand a soft squeeze, before letting go.
‘See?’ he said, cocking his head to the side a little. ‘That wasn’t so bad, now was it?’

‘Dream on, Persistent,’ Acacia replied, rolling her eyes in annoyance, before turning back to the dummy. ‘If you don’t have anything useful to do here, then go.’

She heard the young man chuckle again, not really knowing if it was meant to be teasing or if he was just happy to be there.

‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘my teacher told me to go training here. My exams are in a few days, he said to train as hard as I can.’

Avondir smiled, scratching the back of his head as his cheeks flushed red. ‘I’d better not ignore his orders,’ he mumbled, ‘so, I can stay. I won’t talk if you’re not comfortable with that, tho.’

Acacia’s grip on her sword loosened, and before she herself could register what she was doing, she turned around to him, and smiled back.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said, avoiding his deep, blue eyes. ‘I didn’t know that. My exams are coming up too, a-and I was just a little stressed, I guess.’

After a moment of silence, in which Acacia felt her cheeks heat up as she awkwardly gripped the edges of her long tunic, Avondir let out a soft laugh and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

‘No worries, I get it!’ he said, almost relieved. Maybe because the girl had opened up slightly, or maybe because there was someone else in exactly the same shoes as he was. ‘My teacher told me everyone is nervous when it’s exam period.’

‘Who’s your teacher…?’ the green-haired girl asked, still nervously fiddling with her shirt.

‘His name’s Regulus Lichtenstern, the General’s brother-in-law. He’s great!’ Avondir smiled brightly, and Acacia couldn’t help but feel a little spark at his enthusiasm about her uncle.

‘He is a great man,’ she replied, and Avondir nodded. ‘Yeah, he’s learned me a lot. It’s because of him, I know what my abilities are and how to have confidence in myself. I-I never though I would obtain that, but now…’

Acacia nodded, sucked in some air, and, in a moment of sheer confidence, let out a quiet: ‘Do you wanna train with me?’

‘That’s a surprise,’ Avondir joked, but his eyes turned soft when he saw the girl’s nervous look. He smiled gently, and whispered: ‘I would like that.’

His words were clearer than water, and Acacia pointed her sword at him. ‘I’m Acacia, by the way,’ she said, ‘but you can call me Ace.’

Avondir grinned, before pulling his own sword from the holder on his belt. ‘Alright, Ace,’ he said, almost amused. ‘Nice to meet you.’

The girl let out a chuckle, and charged.

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